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Biotech Science

Overuse of Bioengineered Corn Gives Rise To Resistant Pests 259

An anonymous reader writes "Though warned by scientists that overuse of a variety of corn engineered to be toxic to corn rootworms would eventually breed rootworms with resistance to its engineered toxicity, the agricultural industry went ahead and overused the corn anyway with little EPA intervention. The corn was planted in 1996. The first reports of rootworm resistance were officially documented in 2011, though agricultural scientists weren't allowed by seed companies to study the engineered corn until 2010. Now, a recent study has clearly shown how the rootworms have successfully adapted to the engineered corn. The corn's continued over-use is predicted, given current trends, and as resistance eventually spreads to the whole rootworm population, farmers will be forced to start using pesticides once more, thus negating the economic benefits of the engineered corn. 'Rootworm resistance was expected from the outset, but the Bt seed industry, seeking to maximize short-term profits, ignored outside scientists.'"
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Overuse of Bioengineered Corn Gives Rise To Resistant Pests

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @05:19AM (#46522695)

    I wonder when will we learn that fighting the Nature is not the best path to survival.

  • by jlebrech ( 810586 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @05:26AM (#46522713) Homepage

    Are those bioengineers creationists who didn't think nature would adapt to those new genes? crazy.

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @05:31AM (#46522733)

    is this: agricultural scientists weren't allowed by seed companies to study the engineered corn until 2010.

    surely with the help of our corrupt lawmakers.

    How in the hell can scientists NOT be allowed to study IN DETAIL, and from the get-go, something as fundamentally groundbreaking and new as genetic engineering applied on a planet-wide scale for the first time ever in the history of life itself?

    We need a revolution to overthrow the current government structures the world over, and sooner rather than later, if only because some day, Something Bad[tm] will happen that'll cause genuine harm to humanity.

    • by Jawnn ( 445279 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @05:51AM (#46522803)
      We do (need that revolution), but it wont' happen because most people do not, or just refuse, to understand how bad things are. Science is hard, after all. Better to worry about things like abortion and gay marriage.
    • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @05:54AM (#46522809)
      Such counter-revolutionary feeling is only happening due to yours being a matter of breaking away from a foreign power that was very busy at the time and so didn't come in to wash the streets of New York with blood. You clearly cannot imagine the price. Take a look at revolutions against strong and established governments based where the revolution has happened and you'll get a good idea of the cost. Take a look at the outcomes of those and compare it to what George Washington's revolution gave you.
      Do you really think you will get something better and what is wrong with George Washington's ideas in the first place that another revolution is required to replace them?
      Why do you think it will turn out better than what Egypt is dealing with now?
      • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @07:17AM (#46523013) Journal

        I think it *could* work better than the Arab spring has. The major reason being Americans still have a vague cultural memory of what Washington and Jeffersonian democracy looked like.

        If they ever do remove the blinders enough to see what is really going on in the first place, it won't be as easy to sell them a Plutocracy or Military dictatorship gussied up to look like a Republic at least not right after their brothers, sons, and daughters have just got done bleeding for freedom again.

        Most people here are to comfortable though, so its not going to happen in the first place. As long as they have money for beer and football is on TV they won't bother looking around to see what has been and is being taken from them.

        • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @08:12AM (#46523197)
          You don't end up with something almost the same but just a bit better after a revolution. You end up with whatever the person who can get together the most guns wants, and whatever wet dreams the NSA has that's not going to be civilians - it's going to be whoever promises the military the best deal. There's no "easy to sell them" involved for the rest.

          Most people here are to comfortable though, so its not going to happen in the first place

          Which is why I tried pointing out to the above poster that a revolution has already been won for him - IMHO tweaking the current situation instead of throwing it all away to be a dictatorship or whatever is frankly somewhat more sane.

      • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @07:29AM (#46523059) Journal
        Well done.

        You are more likely to get a Putin than a Gorbachev, and there are many more Ted Cruz-like asshats out there than there are George Washingtons.

      • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @08:36AM (#46523299) Journal

        Ukraine just had a revolution. Look what happened? Woe to you if you live in Crimea. You are now Russian with Putin spies all over and will dissapear if you do not watch what you say or act carefully. Sounds better under the corrupt Ukraine dictatorship if you ask me.

      • by morgauxo ( 974071 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @09:15AM (#46523529)

        George Washington's revolution? Yeah, he started it, he lead it and he shaped the ideas that came out of it. All by himself! And over 200 years later those ideas are still what our government today runs on!

        May I buy you a history book?

    • by spikenerd ( 642677 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:54AM (#46522955)
      If legitimate, this "scientists weren't allowed" statement is indeed alarming. However, it was also given without details, basis, or evidence. I am a scientist, and I don't give a damn about what my industry wants me to study. Who are these pansy agricultural scientists that ask companies for permission about what to study? Was a scientist actually sued? Can anyone document any details of a possible threat, even a subtle or implied one? How did these companies manange to distribute these seeds so widely to farmers while completely preventing all scientists from obtaining a single sample? Come on, evidence please! Until then, I really want to be inflamed by this story. Can anyone with some real details help me out?
      • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @07:22AM (#46523027) Journal

        The trouble is these things come with what amounts to a EULA. Look how things worked out for that farmer who bought GM soy from a grain silo and tried to use it for seed: law suit city.

        I am sure the farmers were forbidden from furnishing the plants to anyone who was not going to be using them for animal or human consumption. So its not that nobody could study it but that there would have been nothing but pain associated with doing so. As soon as they went to publish or even just talk about it, they would have with little doubt been trampled by an army of lawyers.

      • by Lloyd_Bryant ( 73136 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @07:29AM (#46523057)

        If legitimate, this "scientists weren't allowed" statement is indeed alarming. However, it was also given without details, basis, or evidence. I am a scientist, and I don't give a damn about what my industry wants me to study. Who are these pansy agricultural scientists that ask companies for permission about what to study? Was a scientist actually sued? Can anyone document any details of a possible threat, even a subtle or implied one? How did these companies manange to distribute these seeds so widely to farmers while completely preventing all scientists from obtaining a single sample? Come on, evidence please! Until then, I really want to be inflamed by this story. Can anyone with some real details help me out?

        Here's the explanation. There was no Grand Consipracy to prevent scientists from obtaining and studying the seeds. What wasn't allowed was for scientists to have access to the fields where the plants were being commercially grown.

        They *could* have obtained the seeds, planted them, and done their studies on those crops. But they couldn't possibly reproduce the sheer scale of Mega-agrobusiness. Since evolution involves lots of random chance, there would be a lot more chances for resistance to develop in the millions of acres of commercial fields than there would be in the much smaller scale fields available to researchers.

        About the onlly thing to be alarmed about is the fact that the EPA didn't require monitoring of GMO-planted fields for such changes. But while that might be alarming, it's not particularly surprising, given the way the US goverment caters to corporations.

    • by StormReaver ( 59959 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @07:29AM (#46523055)

      Our corrupt government allows corporations to poison our food in order to poison the bugs that eat it.
      The bugs evolve to resist the poison, making the poison pointless.
      Our government allows corporations to continue poisoning our food because the corporations have become dependent on the income the poisoning provides.
      We are still being poisoned, and will continue to be poisoned.

      Yet genetically altering our food is somehow still considered a good thing by the clueless. Sadly, the clueless are the ones making the decisions and supporting those making the decisions.

    • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @08:33AM (#46523279) Journal

      The Tea Party is counter revolution of more corporate control and less goverment and liberalism.

      The Tea Party is winning. Expect more corruption and more power to the big boys and the citizens are all brainwashed and in line thinking less government is really for them lol

      • by JWW ( 79176 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @09:36AM (#46523657)

        Of course the reverse of this is less corporate control and more government control.

        Please tell me, whats the scarier proposition, bunches of really big and wealthy companies that we can often choose to deal with or not, or a huge massive government that has many times the resources of these companies and can jail you or worse?

        It boggles my mind that someone could actually argue that the solution to us having too many powerful companies is making our massively powerful government even more powerful.

        As counterintuitive as it is, the real reason so many of these companies have so much power is that the government has given it to them (see copyright, patents, handouts, and tax breaks). This is why small government is needed. A smaller government does not have the massive power of corrupting business that a large government has. You are fooling yourself if you think that a massive government's regulations won't revolve around special treatment of a select few instead of protecting the little guy. Government can't even see the little guy anymore.

        • by neonKow ( 1239288 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @10:02AM (#46523827) Journal

          You seem confused about how the government works:
          1) A big government is what keeps companies in check. More regulations = bigger government. Fewer regulations = big companies have more power. Read up on the Square Deal and President Theodore Roosevelt and see what happens when there are not enough regulations. Monopolies are very, very bad.
          2) Copyright and patents came about because it protects the artist/inventor who could be run out of business by someone copying his own creation. The fact that IP law abuses are occurring is a flaw/loophole in the system that can be fixed, but IP law is and has always been about protecting the little guy and they are the only reason the Industrial Revolution could even happen.
          3) The term "handouts" is a generally derogatory term and doesn't refer to anything specific. If you're talking about bailouts of companies during the recession, you're again mistaken. The collapse happened in the first place because big systems get too complex for most people to understand, so the few people who did actually understand the house of cards we had set up made off with a ton of money at the expense of a lot of other people.
          4) Most of the problems you bring up are with a corrupt government, not a big government. And unlike a corrupt corporation, you have the option to elect people and impeach people in a government (and we will barring some major collapse of the government), and the public sector is required to withstand scrutiny, current NSA bullshit notwithstanding.

          I share your current dissatisfaction of how our current elected officials are running things, but I don't think the solution is returning to time that history has demonstrated DOES NOT WORK.

  • by Warbothong ( 905464 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @05:36AM (#46522749) Homepage

    We need to start outsourcing our problems to Nature. How about we genetically engineer corn which can only be eaten by organisms which excrete efficient batteries, BitCoins and flying cars?

  • by Lando ( 9348 ) <lando2+slash@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:13AM (#46522867) Homepage Journal

    Okay, I can be pretty dense when it comes to reading between the lines, but even I notice a heavy dose of agenda in this summary. It's a good thing the anti-GMO folks have a crystal ball to see the future clearly.

    I guess we need our daily dose of propaganda though.

    • by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:25AM (#46522885)

      Okay, I can be pretty dense when it comes to reading between the lines, but even I notice a heavy dose of agenda in this summary. It's a good thing the anti-GMO folks have a crystal ball to see the future clearly.

      I guess we need our daily dose of propaganda though.

      I'm pro-GMO but I think this is one of the legitimate issues. If you engineer something to resist a pest the pest is going to evolve a response, we've learned that lesson countless times with anti-biotics but the pests evolve faster than human nature.

      • Re:A bit slanted? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by bloodhawk ( 813939 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:54AM (#46522951)

        Okay, I can be pretty dense when it comes to reading between the lines, but even I notice a heavy dose of agenda in this summary. It's a good thing the anti-GMO folks have a crystal ball to see the future clearly.

        I guess we need our daily dose of propaganda though.

        I'm pro-GMO but I think this is one of the legitimate issues. If you engineer something to resist a pest the pest is going to evolve a response, we've learned that lesson countless times with anti-biotics but the pests evolve faster than human nature.

        Perhaps I am missing something but I fail to see the issue? it was completely expected for the pests to overcome it, GE corn was never going to be a solution forever, it doesn't negate all the years of use they got out of not having to use a heap of chemicals to kill the pests. Now they have to go back to chemicals again though, at least until they find the next method to counter them.

      • by Talderas ( 1212466 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @07:28AM (#46523053)

        So previous to this seed we use pesticides to combat rootworms because farmers grow the same crop year after year permitting rootworm populations to rapidly grow. The seed is introduced which the corn produces its own pesticide. The seed is used, once again year after year. The rootworms become resistant. Farmers are now required to use pesticides once again.

        We've returned to where we were about five years ago and about the worst thing you could say happened is that this particular modification of corn to combat root worms would need to be shelved and a new one found. As long as farmers engage in mono-crop farming this is going to happen and that's not even getting into the issues of nitrogen levels in soil.

      • by Lando ( 9348 ) <lando2+slash@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @08:12AM (#46523193) Homepage Journal

        My problem isn't with the information provided, my problem is how they are framing the summary. It comes across as an emotional plea rather than actually providing knowledge/data. The message is getting lost in the rhetoric, imo.

  • Nothing new (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Errol backfiring ( 1280012 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @06:25AM (#46522887) Journal

    Years ago (10 years or more)? There was a study about the arms race in agricultural pest control. The subject of this study was a genetically engineered crop that made its own poison, but that was not really relevant to the outcome of the study. Traditional spraying would have the same effect.

    It was discovered that poison did not only fight pests, it also helps pests. The non-resistant pest bugs were killed, but the resistant pest bugs were given a predator-free environment. This was important, because the poison resistance often comes with lower chances of survival in non-poisoned environments. For example, one poison had an impact on the nerve system, paralysing non-resistant bugs. Resistant bugs had a nerve system that worked much slower, so they would be a "sitting duck" in a natural environment.

    the study showed that if a certain portion of the land (recommended was 15% to 20%, which sound like a lot, but is peanuts compared to the 60% loss often found due to resistant pests) was planted with non-poisoned crops, the whole arms race could actually be stopped. The bugs would move between plants, and if they came on a poisoned plant they would be attacked by the poison, and if they came on a natural plant, they would be attacked by their natural predators.

    • Re:Nothing new (Score:5, Informative)

      by hibiki_r ( 649814 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @08:51AM (#46523365)

      Yep, it's called refuge. And that's why you will find, today, that the recommendation is to do exactly as you say. You'll even find Monsanto, BASF and Pioneer telling you to do that, and even selling the seeds for both. If you find a farmer that doesn't know that, he's not paying attention.

      Now, good luck finding people that know this unless they have farmers or agronomists in the family.

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @07:10AM (#46522987)

    So there was a switch to rootworm resistant corn, which I'd assume came with a declining use of pesticide. If the rootworms overcame resistance to the resistant corn, does this mean they may have lost some of their resistance to the pesticide?

    Or are these resistances somehow retained or overlapping so that we have rootworms with high resistance to both?

    Other than the nasty concept of pesticide use generally, it sounds like maybe this would allow for a switch back to pesticides which the rootworms may have lost resistance to.

    Or will my cynicism be correct, that farmers will use both the resistant seed AND pesticide and develop a super-rootworm with strong resistance to both?

  • by Connie_Lingus ( 317691 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @07:33AM (#46523067) Homepage

    evolution isn't real, right? adaptation to environmental stresses just a theory...

    tell that to these farmers.

  • by gatkinso ( 15975 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @07:51AM (#46523131)

    Yummy.

  • or two, it was well worth the experiment, at least to the CEO and shareholders. The CEO got his bonus and the shareholders got their bump in the price and that's all that matters.

    When the CEO lays off all the genetic engineers because of this "problem" the shareholders will reward him with another bonus for being so proactive.

    I don't know why you guys are getting so upset. It says right there in the Bible that God gave us all the plants and animals to do with as we see fit.

  • by Maury Markowitz ( 452832 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @08:31AM (#46523263) Homepage

    "1996. The first reports of root worm resistance were officially documented in 2011"

    So we got 15 years of pesticide-free corn? And the downside is we have to return to what we used to do, until we get another variety?

    If it's 15 years for that one too, I suspect we can out engineer the bugs continually.

    • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @09:15AM (#46523525) Homepage

      Although I agree, the critical question really becomes: Did we get value for that corn over that timescale, enough to justify changing over to it.

      Did the cost of not having to use pesticide X scale in comparison to the cost of finding new pesticide Y within 15 years (which, let's face it, is largely a random number determined by genetic mutation chance) and deploying it?

      How much do farmers have invested in this? How much profit/loss would they have made just using the old pesticide or even suffering losses instead of having to buy this engineered corn?

      The numbers have to pan out. Maybe they do, maybe they don't, I'm not a farmer so I have no idea. But if you want to "bet the farm" (quite literally) across the nation on the fact that you can out-engineer bugs constantly for at least the next generation or so (who can make their own decisions), while paying for for-profit engineered corn, that's not a decision to take on the basis of "it sounds good".

      And you also have to think about the bigger picture - in the future do we want to be potentially spending more than healthcare costs on just how to get rid of bugs that we've dealt with for thousands of years? Redirecting all that effort to developing new corn and studying new bugs in order to do what maybe washing the corn or introducing a natural predator could do (which is not impactless in itself!)?

      And do we want to guarantee that we'll ALWAYS out-strip nature? In this case, 15 years for something resistant occurred. But what's to say that in that time, next time around, we don't get 10 mutations of bugs that we can't stop for another 10 years each? Or that we don't get a mutation of bug that takes out ALL the crops for one year in a month (even if we then develop a pesticide the next week?)

      When you're gambling with the food supply of a nation, it's not as simple as just letting private companies develop these things and leaving them to it. Monsanto pretty much have single-handedly proven that and take a significant chunk of money from everyone who grows crops - by patenting a gene that makes some crops immune to their own weedkiller - and even from people who didn't even know they were using Monsanto crops or never intended to (to the point where you get patent lawsuits against farmers for buying seeds from other farmers, or even because some seed blew into their land).

      The question to ask is really about the longer-term costs, if ALL we get is 15 years of risky "safety". And even things like - is it sensible to replace crops, nationwide, with new varieties, entirely, over the course of 15 years just to avoid a particular pest?

  • There is noting weird and baleful about GM species that causes them to behave differently from non-GMOs in the environment, including how other species co-evolve in response to them. There was an early belief that transfer of genes between species was special manmade magic, until it was found that this happens in nature too: http://davesgarden.com/guides/... [davesgarden.com]

    Genetic engineering is nothing but a precisely targeted way of accomplishing changes that used to take generations of cross-breeding and culling.

  • by ExecutorElassus ( 1202245 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @09:38AM (#46523677)
    Someone explain to me again how GMO crops are the only possible way human beings are going to solve all our agriculture problems, and people opposed to them are Luddites? Did they not think that natural selection more or less negates any gains reached through GM within a few generations?
  • by WOOFYGOOFY ( 1334993 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @10:19AM (#46523933)

    It doesn't exempt itself from evolution. So the question we need to be asking ourselves is, WHEN pests evolve to thwart GMO "innovations" what might those pests be able to DO how BAD will THAT be and how are we going to deal with it and how quickly can we react what happens to the food supply if we CAN'T?
     

  • More on this unexpected development later.

  • by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Wednesday March 19, 2014 @11:21AM (#46524457) Journal

    Either in "Stand on Sansibar" or "Sheep looking up" I think the latter one. Well at his time it was considered SF. However it was plausible. And I'm not surprised that it indeed worked. Now lets wait for the worms to really mutate and become nasty :D

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